Saturday, 12 September 2015

Me and the Mirena Coil

This is about my very personal experience with the Mirena coil. It is not a lament about its existence or against its use; it is one story – my story. I know other people who have used this method of dealing with their period woes and are very happy with it. That is not my experience. My experience was horrible and traumatic and I’m writing about it because this is my period blog.

As mentioned in an earlier post, after it became clear that tranexamic acid wasn’t really an adequate treatment I had more tests. These included an intra-vaginal scan, and a subsequent appointment with a gynaecologist. A word on intra-vaginal scans – lying in a darkened room and having a slightly vibrating wand wiggled around your vagina is a very disconcerting experience in the context of a medical exam.

The results were frustratingly inconclusive. When I got to see the gynaecologist his only real advice was that I get a Mirena coil fitted. Because he didn't really think a hysterectomy was quite the thing, it’s a bit drastic and anyway, it has a tendency to make women put on weight, and that’s something I have a bit of an issue with... Thank you for your input there, Mr Gynaecologist, your reference to my weight ‘issues’, as you perceive them, is most helpful and relevant. No really. So anyway, the two choices boiled down to either a method of contraception or a major operation.

I put off having the coil fitted for a year because I was terrified of having it done. I'd read too many awful experiences online to be calm about it, despite knowing people in real life who'd had it without much of a fuss at all. Finally though, I persuaded myself the benefits outweighed my fears. It took a couple of visits to my local clinic before I could actually get it fitted. Ideally, it needs to be fitted during a period, but this isn’t always practical when you bleed very heavily. Also, if you want to get it fitted, don’t have sex after the first day of your period or you might get turned away on the slim chance you might be pregnant, even if you used contraception. And be prepared to be told you need to lose weight, as a general and repeated maxim. Not that that’s relevant to whether you can have the coil, but you might not be aware of how fat you are if healthcare professionals don’t keep telling you repeatedly.

Anyway, eventually I got an appointment and got the damn thing fitted. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience. It turns out my cervix isn’t keen on being cranked opened and having a weird little thing passed through it. Afterwards I had to sit in the waiting area with my head between my knees until the nausea, dizziness, hot flushes and shaking stopped.

I felt pretty ropey for the next day or two, and horribly conscious of my bits. But I was prepared for some initial discomfort and was convinced it would be fine fairly soon. Wrong. I hated every minute it was inside me. I never felt quite right with it, but I suffered with it for a year, hoping I'd get to the point of light or no periods. Instead I had near constant low-level bleeding. As it wasn’t the uncontrollable bleeding I’d been having I was still prepared to take it as a bit of a win.

Unfortunately, the bleeding got heavier as the months passed, along with increasing levels of pain. I started getting massive cramps again, until about a year after having it fitted my body said That Is Enough and expelled it all by itself one evening, completely wrapped in menstrual lining. This counts as one of the most horrid experiences of my life. It wasn’t just painful but also frightening, because what the hell was going on? All I knew was that the cramping was intense and that the bleeding was scary as I sat on the toilet and cramped and bled and cried continually for an hour or more.

Obviously, this treatment was not for me. As I said, I know actual real life people for whom it has been a success, but clearly it is not for everyone. Of course, there’s no way of knowing until you try. Well, not until there’s a lot more research into understanding why people suffer from dysfunctional periods. I would appreciate a method of dealing with them that wasn’t a by-product of contraception, because if you start having trouble with the Pill then chances are you’re going to have trouble with other hormone-based remedies, no? And the Mirena coil releases a low-level dose of progesterone into the womb. The more I think about this, with my non-medical non-scientific brain, the less sense it makes. But it does explain why the Progesterone-only Pill had much the same effect on my periods over the course of a year.

I could be wrong and maybe there is a Pill that would be suitable for me again, but it does make me reluctant to keep experimenting. The experience has definitely made me incredibly reluctant to undergo more tests and examinations – I put off a smear test for a year, which is not a good thing to do in the slightest.

This post is getting far too long now so I’ll end with saying I think there’s a range of things to talk and be cross about contained in here around women’s bodies and how they are discussed and cared for, which are much wider than my personal experience and need to be talked about openly and dismantled. I remain adamant that we need to tell our stories.

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